Hillary Clinton Is ‘Too Old’: Republicans Play The Age Card In Hopes Of Winning Youth Vote

Haven't we evolved to a time when a person like Hillary Clinton is judged not by her age but by her vigor, awareness and energy? Nah. But we should be. Image@Bohomamma

Haven’t we evolved to a time when a person like Hillary Clinton is judged not by her age but by her vigor, awareness and energy? Nah. But we should be. Image@Bohomamma

Why are we having this conversation?! Why is Hillary Clinton’s viability as a candidate for president viewed through the filter of age? She’s healthy, she’s strong, she’s got the energy to travel more than most young people will in their lifetimes, and if she wins the election, she will only be 69 on election day (yep… same age as Reagan). Considering that women’s life expectancy is, on average, a full 5 years longer than men’s, that would make her 64 in man-years… when did 64 become too old to be a leader of either gender?

It didn’t, it doesn’t; it’s all deflective. It’s ageism, sexism, and anti-Clintonism all wrapped up in a neat little bundle of bullshit. Let’s, for example, question why Mitch McConnell is making the condescending and ageist remark at a conservative conference that the potential Democrat field for 2016, inclusive of Ms. Clinton, would be like “a rerun of the Golden Girls.” Really, Mitch? Cuz you’re 71-years-old now, way older than Hillary Clinton, and by the time she might be elected president, you’ll be 73… to her 64 (remember, in “man-years). Are you ready to hand in your keys to Congress? Didn’t think so. So keep your gum-flapping to yourself. The rest of us have to make decisions based on points of actual importance and age ain’t nuthin’ but a number… for either of you.

This old white man is REALLY gonna make this about Hillary's age??

This old white man is REALLY gonna make this about Hillary’s age??

The fact is, Republicans are deeply afraid of the power of Hillary Clinton, a woman so publicly vetted at this point in her long and storied career, that to hold out hope for some new limb-dangling, news-meriting skeleton is folly. They’ll continue to flog Benghazi, they’ll batter her about Bill, but ultimately, she’s a high-profile figure of significant popularity (voted “most popular politician” in February, which held even post-Benghazi hearings) who, as recently as six months ago, was given the backing of a majority of Americans should she choose to run. Even Republican kingpin, Newt Gingrich, said Republicans have no chance if Clinton does run in 2016. Of course, we all know political fortunes can change in the blink of an eye, but still… what is the GOP to do with that backdrop? They’re going to play the age card. They’re going to knock her for being OLD. It works in the entertainment business, the corporate world, the media; pretty much anywhere where women exist, so, hey, why not give it a whirl in politics? After all, do YOU want an old, craggy, crochety crone running the United States of America?

Republicans are hoping you don’t. And as a strategy, it’s pure poison. From Joshua Green at Bloomberg BusinessWeek:

“How do I know this would be a terrible political strategy? Partly because it would force Republicans to explain why age is a problem for Clinton but wasn’t for the sainted Ronald Reagan, who was also 69 when first elected in 1980. This is impossible. But mostly because building a strategy around the physical characteristics of a woman would be, for Republicans, like handing a box of matches to a curious toddler—certain to quickly engulf everyone in flames. Some Republicans wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to say something impolitic or downright misogynistic—or, even likelier, wouldn’t recognize that they were doing so. The race would become a referendum on gender. That’s a race Republicans can never win.”

It’s also a strategy that reeks of stupidity, as women around the country already find Republicans anathema to the issues and realities of being a women in our contemporary world; why would the GOP think age-bashing Clinton would woo female voters to their side?

Truth is, they would get some with that. There are women on both sides of the aisle whose antipathy for Hillary Clinton includes discussions of “her age” as if it were a thing of explosive properties. I’ve read liberal posts, right along with those written by conservatives, that play the age-card in a way that is both demeaning and deflective. Not only do they bring up “age related health” concerns, but they push the implication that she is not “2.0 enough” for younger voters looking for hipper, more social-media savvy, less “boomer” candidates. Which is a sad statement about what, really, American citizens believe makes a great leader.

But Republicans will go for it. It’s what they’ve got, the age-card, and they’ll be forced to use everything at their disposal if Clinton runs. Of course, the ploy comes at a price. As Nancy Pelosi put it:

“They would go to that place at their own risk,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic minority leader and first female speaker, noting that “Age is like art — it’s a matter of interpretation.” [Source]

And Pelosi should know. She’s an “older female” in politics who’s had to put up with ageism throughout her career, from male colleagues right down to young whippersnapper journalists like Luke Russert, who made the unforgettable blunder of asking Pelosi if her continuing career “prohibits the party from having a younger leadership.” (See the video of her response HERE.)

The fact is, it’s always been a challenge for women in politics. First of all, they’re not men. Which, right there, creates some real problems in the eyes of some. Despite the fact that women have been leaders on the global landscape since time immemorial, here in America that we find a certain squeamishness about the notion. And as a woman ages, a fact of life met with resounding panic in a culture that idealizes youth and beauty, that woman becomes… terrifying. A crone. A grandma, a hag; a twisted spinster. And we don’t want that on the news every day for the length of a presidential term, do we?? (Rush Limbaugh did, after all, ask his audience in April whether the American people “want to vote for somebody, a woman, and actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?”)

But since when do smart, savvy Americans (which would exclude the Dittoheads) capitulate to the cliches of age? Haven’t we evolved to a time when a person is judged not by the number of years they’ve lived but by their vigor, skills, contemporary awareness and energy to do good work? Nah. But we should be. In a piece I wrote earlier this year, Reality Check: IS Hillary Clinton Too Old To Run For President In 2016? (yes… we’ve been talking about this for a while now, haven’t we?), I made the following point:

There were many who expected Clinton to take a long sabbatical after her many-traveled years in the State Department, particularly after her health scare with the concussion and blood clot. But it was less than a month after her misnomered retirement that she was jumping into the speaking circuit and will, no doubt, be in high demand, given that she’s the most popular politician in America and the “most admired” women in the world. One can assume, since she’s smart and not known for self-destructive behavior, that she feels healthy and energized enough to do it. There are plenty of younger people who could not put in the miles she did while Secretary of State and still be eager to get back out on the road!

Since I don’t want to run the risk of repeating myself, I invite you to click on that article to read a few other thoughts on this issue, including a list of women who’ve run their countries at ages far older than Clinton’s.

Republicans are hoping the youth population, fixated on technology, social media and the ever-changing landscape that is life in the 21st century, will reject “another boomer” in lieu of… what? Who do the Republicans have to trump the colossus that is Clinton? Marco Rubio? He’s already peaked, according to many. Bobby Jindal? Some say he hasn’t been a serious contender since his dreadful rebuttal speech after the second inaugural address (or was it that one after the 2008 State of the Union?). Who else? Who else is young and hip enough to deflect any of the same ageism they’re throwing Clinton’s way?

And, frankly, while the GOP is slavishly hoping younger voters will eschew an “oldie” like Clinton, the fact remains that the youth vote dropped 6 points in the last election, making apathy a, perhaps, bigger hurdle to overcome in 2016 than age.

Hillary @Twitter

Hillary @Twitter

Clinton, meanwhile, is moving ahead regardless of the noise. She’s set up her website, she’s got a stylin’ Twitter account (look at that image of her texting, all contemporary and everything!). She showed up at the Lincoln Center recently so put together and refreshed that even Matt Drudge, known for taking his digs, covered the event by running a DailyMailUK piece titled, “Fresh-Faced Hillary Glows at Lincoln Center,” flush with pictures of a “glowing” Clinton.

As we get closer to the fact of a presidential run, the pitchforks will surely be poked into every soft spot her opponents can find, as it ever was with politics. But as women continue to see their issues skewered and sacrificed to the fundamentalism and theocracy of the Republican agenda, the party would be wise to steer clear of attacking Clinton on the matter of her age. Women, frankly, are tired of the trend. Argue politics, platforms, voting records and policy choices, but leave a woman’s age out of it. It’s not only rude, it’s profoundly un-2.0.